One can only imagine the range of emotions experienced by patients and their families when the need for a donor organ arises. The tremendous amount of angst that is felt when they wonder if a suitable donor match can be found. There is also that terrible feeling of the unknown, not knowing how much time the patient has before it becomes too late to receive a transplant. These are a few of the concerns that arise out of this terrible situation, but there are others that have come under intense scrutiny, perhaps causing a change in the United States policy of kidney recipients.
This possible change, as noted in an NBC news piece, was announced by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). This group might not sound like a government agency, but they play a crucial role in these situations. That is because this organization manages organ donations in the United States. Why is there a change needed? It appears that change is being called for because of the current way in which donor kidneys are distributed.
At this moment, when a person dies and kidneys are available, those organs go to the next person up on the list. In other words, the people that are on their the longest are the ones that will get the kidneys. That would seem the proper way to do things, but there are plenty of folks that disagree with that philosophy. These people, including the UNOS, believe that things need to be better assessed, to make sure that patients are matched up with the proper organ for their situation. UNOS is quoted as saying of the current system, “it does not strive to minimize death on the waiting list, nor maximize survival following transplant.”
With that being said, there is a proposal that would change things into two ratings systems. There would be one for the organ, and one for the patients. For patients, a number of factors would be examined to give them a score. Among these factors would be if the person has been on dialysis and how long for, as well as the age of the patient. From the organ perspective, the score would come from how long doctors would expect the donor kidney to work with the patient.
With the current next up scenario, individuals like children can be adversely affected. Though a child would seemingly get the longer benefit from a donor organ, the kidneys right now might go to a person in their 50’s who just happened to have been on the list for more time. The current system does not take into account the condition of the donated kidney. Some kidneys that come in are functional, but are probably going to work for a shorter amount of time. The old system would not examine this, leaving a patient to endure possible additional transplants down the road.
UNOS wants to change that, and their system would do that. Under the new guidelines, The top 20 percent of kidneys would be offered to the top 20 percent of patients. That 20 percent would be determined, not by wealth or time on the list, but rather on their score. The new system would also take into account the importance of getting the children the highest ranked kidneys. There would also be exceptions made for folks with sensitive immune systems.
One can see that leaves another 80 percent of kidneys to be dispersed. Those remaining organs would be sent out in a similar fashion to the old way, with one notable change. The organs would be offered out to a wider area than what is presently done. It adds up to almost 8,000 total extra years of life for patients, UNOS notes. The other noteworthy thing to mention is that, with the wider area, there will be less of a chance of donated kidneys being thrown out for lack of someone close by to receive it. That seems strange in a country where there are more patients than donors, but it has happened.